Laptops, cell phones and tablets have changed how we work, and according to office furniture manufacturer Steelcase, the little devices also change how we sit. Steelcase surveyed 2,000 office workers in 11 different countries, looking at how people sit when they use technology.
The survey identified nine new working postures people use internationally. We’re adapting to technology use faster than our office furniture, which could cause problems with muscle strain, fatigue and injuries in the future.
The Nine Postures
It wasn’t enough to just identify the new sitting postures: they needed naming. Someone at Steelcase had fun with this. Without explanations the names sound like some strange new office yoga, which I suppose they are.
Without further ado, Steelcase’s nine new office postures. Betcha find one you use!
A personal favorite of mine, the mobile device user reclines slightly, drawing his feet up onto the chair. The mobile is held close and rests on the thighs. The overall effect looks like a fetal position.
Small mobile devices have smaller screens. To focus on those screens, the worker pulls away from her desk, reclining to read information and drawing the device into a comfortable reading distance.
This posture can be avoided if you have a hands-free headset for your cell phone. Otherwise, you find yourself sitting forward to read your laptop while one hand uses the mouse and the other holds the phone to your ear.
A person assuming the swipe position looks like a relaxed version of Rodin’s The Thinker if the sculptor had bothered to include a desk.
Used to surf mobiles sitting flat on a desk, someone in the swipe position sits leaning forward with their head positioned over the screen. One hand navigates with swiping motions while the other head rests one cheek in the empty hand.
The strunch, short for stretched out hunch, is a fatigue position. As you get tired, you slowly push the laptop deeper into the workstation so you can rest your weight against the station. Of course, this means you now have to reach forward to work, putting strain on the back and neck, so you use one arm to support your head. Is it Friday yet?
The Take It In
I have, in fact, gone over backwards in an office chair performing this maneuver. Usually assumed when contemplating information from a large screen, the person reclines way back in their chair with their legs extended.
My daughter lives her life in the “Text” position: arms brought in so close the wrists almost touch the chest, allowing her to read and text from a comfortable position.
People assume the trance for long periods of time when reading or surfing on laptops or desktops. They focus on the monitor, leaning in slightly with on hand supporting their head, the other on the mouse and their legs drawn in under the chair.
The Smart Lean
This is a temporary, privacy-based email. Say you’re in a meeting and you get a text from a family member who suddenly realizes he needs help looking for a divorce attorney. You don’t want your co-workers reading the text, so you lean away from them, turning your body slightly to shield the screen. When you’re finished, you return to your normal posture.
New Posture, New Furniture?
The nine postures have one thing on common: current ergonomic office furniture is not designed with these positions in mind. In order to avoid pain, stiffness and long-term back pain, furniture designers will need to develop new chairs and workstations that accommodate our new ways of sitting.